Ethical brand partnerships connect your customers and employees
Filtered Media’s PR + social media director, Dina Pyrlis Gray, and senior content producer, Ewan Miller, explore three successful brand partnerships and why, in our millennial world, it’s more important than ever to create meaningful connections with your customers and employees. Read on to learn more about how Guardian Labs, Invictus Games, and an entrepreneurial real estate brand partnering with Sanctuary Housing are making a positive impact on their brand, customers, employees, and society.

The thing with us millennials is, we love brands that do the right thing.

And despite our inescapable fears around home ownership, we’re set to become one of the wealthiest generations in history, challenging brands to adapt to a generation that so self-consciously rejects brand loyalty.

Ethical partnerships might just be the key to capturing our wallets (and perhaps our hearts).

In a recent survey, 42% of respondents said the “ethical and moral standards” of the brand were important factors in their purchasing decision, with a brand’s partnerships being one of the most important factors.

Stay tuned as we chat with three CMOs about the challenge of building powerful partnerships that can do good and improve a business’ bottom line.

More than a sponsorship

“More sophisticated marketers are realising you’ve got to give back to the community,” advises Tim Hodgson, chief commercial and marketing officer for the Invictus Games.

“It goes beyond corporate social responsibility, which can feel slightly tokenistic. You’ve got to market your organisation’s ability to drive real social impact.”

For October’s Invictus Games, Tim said it was important to find brands who shared the event’s core values and were willing to engage on a deeper level than traditional sponsorship.

“When you have your clients in the room, it’s not like another sponsorship where they’re sort of trying to outgun each other for creative leverage and share of voice. You’re talking about the opportunities to drive longer-term impact, which is good for everyone. You’re not just sponsoring eight days at the end of October,” Tim says.

It’s this values-based collaboration which leads to partnerships with far-reaching impact, such as that between Blackmores and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) whose shared passion for marine ecosystems led to the establishment of the Sustainable Fish Oils Partnership.

This partnership’s projects include investments in Peruvian Anchovy Fisheries, satellite tracking for blue whales to improve scientific knowledge and an ongoing effort to remove maritime debris which impacts sea life.

“For brands working with Invictus, purpose-driven partnerships are an opportunity to engage staff, engage their clients, be involved in something much bigger than themselves, give back to the community,” says Tim.

Spreading the word

For many brands, doing the right thing is the easy part: the challenge is sharing that good work with their audience in a way that doesn’t come off as exploitative to a generation of media-savvy consumers who invest their trust cautiously.

“If you start from the very beginning being all advertorial,” says Susie Bayes, Brand Partnerships Director for Guardian Labs, “and many do start off doing that, you burn through trust awfully quick.”

She says authenticity is the key to promoting a brand’s efforts to make the world better. And this doesn’t just mean aligning with values. She says we’re moving out of the age of “black-box brands”, where only the surface mattered, to “glass-box brands” whose (sometimes involuntary) transparency requires them to behave consistently throughout the organisation.

“Brands like Uber have had some problems,” she says. “They have value statements for what they stand for, but they don’t necessarily live those values throughout the company. How is anybody going to know what it is that you stand for if you look completely different from every angle.”

She cautions that when the message doesn’t reflect the company as a whole, there are only two possibilities: your content appears out of touch, or perhaps worse, it fails to connect.

“The thing about bad content marketing is that it’s so forgettable,” Susie warns, cautioning that one of the “worst mistakes brands can make is allowing their commercial message to smother the partnership itself.”

“If you talk about yourself too much on a first date, you don’t get a second. This is about building a long term relationship between customers and your brand.”

“When you and your partner craft the perfect narrative — one which supports a message that customers would ‘love to know about’ — then the next time your audience has to make a decision, between you versus another brand, they have a reason to choose you. Because emotionally, you’re doing something that makes them feel better.”

Brand partnerships boost company culture

Brand partnerships are a great way to create meaningful connections in the consumer’s mind. But leaders should also consider their people when choosing a brand partner.

“When we first started the [Bresic Whitney] business, we actually said to ourselves – and it took eighteen months to work through this as a team – “What is it that we do?” And, you can’t just say, “I’m different.” What is it that you believe in, and what’s important to you?” says Shannan Whitney, CEO of BresicWhitney, inner-Sydney real estate agency.

“We wanted to genuinely bring homes to life. But in our industry, there is generally little to no focus on the experience. It’s all about how many properties sold and how much money you made. To this day, that’s the central message. But we wanted to challenge that because for us property is about people.

But how do we offer value, not just to those buying and selling, but to our community as well?” says Shannan.

Brand collaborations and community partnerships are a very effective way to offer value or accomplish goals beyond your core offering.

So rather than just keep a narrow focus on people who are in a real estate mode, we broadened our scope by participating in the local lifestyle and community.

“The arts are an important part of the inner city fabric of Sydney. So we partnered with Carriageworks to tap into an artistic community.”

“The other type of partnership at BresicWhitney is around community improvement. This is where our staff get an opportunity to give their time, in any way they can, to help others less fortunate.”

“Remarkably, our partnership with Sanctuary Housing was probably what we were most frightened about because we didn’t think a bunch of busy real estate agents would be committed.”

“But actually, this partnership has engaged our people the most,” says Shannan.

For more great advice on how to manage ethical partnerships, listen to our full chat with Susie Bayes on The CMO Show.

Let us tell your story
I want to Filtered Media.